Classy Cancun: Club Med is a Lavish Breath of Fresh Air for Vacationing Families & Couples
Cancun—the city of spring break, 24-hour nightclubs and more alcohol than a fraternity could down in a week—or at least that’s what I’ve always thought. Before last weekend I had never been there and its tales of rumpus frivolity and potentially illicit activities did not put it high on the list of places I needed to see before I die, but that was until I actually visited the coastal city. Piña coladas, white sands and the second largest coral reef in the world make for an amazing vacation—but it’s not for everyone.
Given the opportunity to travel to the Club Med Cancun Yucatan resort, I soon realized it was the perfect vacation spot for families and couples looking for a romantic getaway. Those looking to immerse themselves in local culture, cuisine and wanting to do little exploring to find the perfect hole-in-the-wall taco shop, might want to look elsewhere. But for a vacation where you—quite literally—don’t have to lift a finger (except to bring an icy beverage to your lips), this is the ideal vacation spot. As an all-inclusive resort, Club Med takes care of every detail from your flight, to transportation, to local excursions, so your entire trip is effortless. Every activity, meal, drink and Club Med party (of which there are many) is included in the cost of your vacation, so you don’t need to bring a thing with you when you leave your room—except maybe some sunblock.
As one of the first resorts in Cancun, Club Med selected a prime location on the northeast tip of the Yucatan peninsula that gave tham exclusive access to the both the beaches and barrier reef. With highs well into the 80s even in winter, Cancun can be especially hot and humid in the summer, but as the property is mostly surrounded by water, ocean breezes are a frequent (and welcomed) occurrence. The Mesoamerican Reef sits off one side of the resort while a crystal clear beach is on the other and in the middle sits a freshwater lake. The resort also offers three different restaurants, four bars, three pools, a fitness center, a performance theater, children’s clubs, a spa, meeting rooms, and an outdoor nightclub complete with live bands, a Cirque Du Soleil-esque performance, and fire dancing on the beach.
The newest addition to the resort is the multimillion-dollar deluxe family building, Aguamarina, where I had the opportunity to stay for an ultra-relaxing weekend on the water. Best for larger families, the first half of the suite has a children’s room with two beds, its own bathroom and TV (so kids can keep themselves entertained with Sunday morning cartoons while you sleep in) and can be closed off from the rest of the suite if you’re in the mood for a little privacy. The main room looks out onto the ocean with an uninterrupted view, and the balcony has a couch and rain shower if you’re looking for a little more one-on-one time with nature. Of course, if you opt to take a shower inside, a wall in the bathroom slides open so even when you’re getting ready you can have a view of the Caribbean Sea.
Another option, the Jade building, is the property’s Five Trident Luxury space (Club Med’s version of five star accommodations) with suites that are perfect for those looking for a romantic getaway. This is the only building in the resort that provides room service, has extra-large soaking tubs and amenities that are perfect for a weekend of romance. Those who stay at Jade also have priority access to activities and services, as well as a private pool and bar that is usually devoid of children and can be an oasis within itself. Sip a glass of chilled Champagne while you lounge poolside just you and your significant other. It’s also one of the best places to see the iguanas that litter the resort as they mosey along the tree line and sit beside you to take in the view.
There are a few different options when it comes to dining at the resort and they range from a swanky buffet to three-course meals depending on which restaurant you wish to try. Some do require dinner reservations, so plan ahead and bring your appetite because they do not skimp on the portions here. The Las Cazuelas restaurant and bar is perched on the beach between Aguamarina and Jade, serving a low-key breakfast, lunch and dinner, this is the place to bring the family so everyone can have something different. Kids can munch on tacos or mac and cheese (possibly both), while parents can indulge in lobster and risotto. (Just a tip, try the scallop risotto, it is amazing.) La Hacienda, the resort’s main restaurant, serves international cuisine buffet-style and offers a view of both the lake and bay. They also offer a baby corner so parents can prepare food for even the youngest of guests. La Estancia, an Argentinean-inspired restaurant, is an ocean-side hangout by day and fine dining grill by night, and features a well-stocked wine cellar and a dreamy crème brûlée that left me craving its crispy-topped goodness for the rest of the week.
There is no shortage of things to do at the resort and for those who want to spend time building sandcastles with their families, this is the perfect place to do so. Take a stroll down the beach, swim amongst schools of tropical fish or spend quality time together relaxing on the sand. Guests are also welcome to grab a meal to go at any of the restaurants and take it to the beach for a lunchtime picnic with the kids. Personally we are all for snacking on ceviche and sipping margaritas under a palm tree with our toes buried in the sand, but if you’re looking for a little action, grab the kids and try one of the resort’s many sports including snorkeling, swimming, water skiing, kayaking, sailing, tennis, wakeboarding, basketball, soccer, volleyball, bocce ball, water polo, windsurfing or flying high on a trapeze.
If you’re looking for something off the beaten trail, the resort's G.O.s (or gracious organizers), can arrange for daily excursions to some of the area’s local activities, and can include everything from exploring local ruins to swimming with whale sharks. The team really goes out of their way to create a personable stay and infuse the "Club Med Spirit." We opted to engage in a little local culture on a guided tour to Tulum and to go swimming in one of the many cenotes, or underground lakes, that litter the peninsula. The site of ancient Mayan ruins, Tulum is a fairly popular tourist destination, but it does take a fair bit of trekking through dirt and jungle until you get to the cliff-side ruins, so be sure to wear good shoes. Once there, you’ll have unobstructed views of the temples set on the backdrop of a turquoise-blue ocean. If your guide allows it (or you’re feeling particularly hot), there are steps down the steep cliffs that take you right to the beach, a popular swimming spot for locals and tourists alike.
While the Tulum archeological site is entirely outdoors (and unshaded), the cenotes are underground and filled with cool, deep water in stalactites-filled caves. As the excursion is entirely subterranean and partially submerged, a helmet, life preserver and specialized water shoes are necessary, so be sure to ask about age and health restrictions before planning your trip. While every cenote is different, once inside you’ll find a cool oasis of crystal-clear underground pools and sparkling rock formations that you’ll remember for a lifetime. Remember that these activities are found in natural habitats so lizards, spiders, insects and other creatures are known to pop up from time to time. If you are concerned about coming across one of these animals (for example I have a paralyzing fear of spiders and tarantulas are popular to the area), let the guide know so they can keep an eye out for you—they are surprisingly vigilant.
If your idea of romance isn’t spelunking, or the kids aren’t too keen on a historical tour around sun-drenched ruins, then the resort has plenty of on-site forms of entertainment. Club Med has several clubs for kids that include the Petit Club for ages two to three, the Mini Club, for ages four to 10 and Passworld for those 11-17. Younger children can spend time putting on talent shows, swimming, or creating colorful works of art while older ones and teens can swim or hang out at the Car Wash, a special recreation area just for them, or have a service at the Teen Spa. You can also enroll your children in different classes if they’d like to try their hand at cooking, circus performing, soccer, tennis or Zumba. In the evening parents can choose to drop the children off at the Pajama Club for a quiet evening alone, or bring the kids along to one of Club Med’s many family-friendly parties or shows.
Yes, there are places in Cancun where you can drink all night, have endless parties and take part in the kind of fraternization that put the location on the map, but at the Club Med Cancun Yucatan resort, amid slowly swaying palm trees, friendly staff and beachside activities, all of that will seem a world away. Your vacation will likely be spent relaxing by the sea, eating fresh local specialties, and singing and dancing the night away with family and new friends as you spend quality time with those you love. Rates for a seven-night stay at Club Med Cancun Yucatan range from $868 to $3,777 USD per person, plus membership fees.